What Parents Should Know About Grandparent Child Visitation Rights

The portrayals of grandparents in movies and television are ones of older people who dote on their grandchildren. They also have characteristics of patience, kindness, generosity and wisdom. They give unconditional love and are shoulders to cry on and listen with empathy. The films also show that the grandchildren have the same affinity toward their grandparents. In real life, grandparents and grandchildren often have closer relationships than those shown on-screen.  

They can frequently visit and build a close relationship when they live near each other. However, in the age of technology, grandparents can contact their grandchildren daily or weekly using video chat platforms, text messages, and social networking sites. The internet, phones, computers and tablets allow more convenient methods of communication and interactions. Even if geographical distance makes in-person visitations difficult, grandparents can still have a consistent presence in their grandchildren’s lives.  

According to the United States Census Bureau 2020 report, more than 65 million children did not have grandparents. The data show that over 7 million kids have a grandmother, grandfather or both. Nearly 4.8 million children live in the same household as their grandparents. 

Grandparents are important and influential members of the family. They play many roles and provide several benefits, such as:

  • Nurturers
  • Caretakers 
  • Teachers 
  • Companionships 
  • Babysitters 
  • Counselor 
  • Mentor
  • Friend 

Grandparents often play vital roles in the upbringing of their grandchildren; however, they do not have automatic visitation rights in child custody cases. When married or unmarried parents seek custody, the grandparents’ access and interactions with the grandkids may suffer significantly.  In some cases, they have no contact at all. 

Oregon law recognizes that family members are essential to a child’s well-being. One of the factors courts consider in a child custody case is the emotional connections a child has with family members other than their parents. A family member extends beyond parents and siblings. The Oregon Family Medical Leave Act allows an employee to take a leave of absence from work to care for a family member. Under the Act, a worker’s grandparent is an eligible family member for which the employee can use family leave. In other forms of employment leave, state law defines a grandparent as an immediate family member.

Divorce, legal separation, and child custody can disrupt the grandparents’ and grandchildren’s relationship. The terms of child custody and parenting time may mean that the grandparents’ access to their grandchild lessens. Although the court orders for custody and visitation are for the parents, the grandparents may have to adjust their lives to the provisions in the order.

The court may order joint or sole custody. In joint custody, both parents have the legal authority to make significant decisions for their children. When a parent has sole custody, he is the child’s primary, and sometimes only, decisionmaker for crucial issues. The custody order outlines the noncustodial parent’s visitation schedule with the child. 

Oregon law recognizes that children can have emotional ties with individuals other than their legal parents, such as grandparents. Therefore, state law gives courts the authority to grant visitation to such individuals under specific circumstances.

After a divorce or custody case, contention between a child’s parents can extend to the grandparents and lessen or stop any interaction with the minor child. To ensure they maintain a steady relationship with their grandchild, grandparents may seek visitation rights through the courts.  

Grandparents can petition the court for visitation if they show they have an established ongoing personal or child-parent relationship. An ongoing personal relationship means the grandparent and grandchild have a steady mutual companionship for at least one year.  

A child-parent relationship exists if the grandchild is in the physical care or the same household as the grandparent within six months before filing for visitation. Other evidence includes the petitioner providing food, shelter and other necessities for the child within six months before filing the petition. The interactions must occur on a day-to-day basis and also fulfill the psychological of the child.

Although a grandparent may have a relationship that qualifies her to seek visitation, Oregon law presumes a legal parent’s decisions and acts are in the best interests of the child. If a custodial parent objects to his child having contact with a grandparent, the court likely does not order visitation with the grandchild. 

A judge may grant visitation despite the parent’s objection if the petitioning grandparent can show:

  • He is the child’s primary caretaker;
  • No visitation is detrimental to the child
  • The legal parent established, supported, or approved of the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild;
  • The visitation would not interfere with the parent’s relationship with the child; or
  • The parent unreasonably restricted the contact between the grandparent and grandchild.

To schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys in Oregon or SW Washington, call us now at 503.222.9116 or write us.

Get peace of mind with a personalized legal strategy.